LeGarrette Blount signed a one-year deal with the Eagles in May, and he's expected to take over as the starter. While it's hard to imagine Blount matching his 2016 production with the Patriots of 1,161 rushing yards and a league-best 18 touchdowns, this was as good a landing spot as he could have hoped for after a long free agency wait. The Eagles, who will likely release Ryan Mathews, have a roster full of smaller, faster running backs in Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey. What they were lacking is a battering ram to soften up the middle of defenses, and Blount fills that role perfectly. While there's still some uncertainty regarding the total number of touches Blount will receive, we view him as a No. 3 or No. 4 running back with No. 2 upside in standard leagues. He's worth a mid-round pick in all formats.
Blount rushed four times for nine yards in Thursday's preseason game versus the Packers. Blount's four carries all came on Philadelphia's 60-yard touchdown drive to start the contest. After that, the veteran made way for some of the Eagles' young tailbacks, ensuring he stays fresh at this early stage in the campaign.
Blount has been working as Eagles' starting running back during training camp, Dave Spadaro of the Eagles' official site reports. Blount missed three days of practice last week due to an undisclosed injury, and even though Wendell Smallwood is said to have taken advantage of added reps in Blount's absence, the veteran reclaimed his role on the first-team offense upon returning to action Friday. After leading the league with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016 as a member of the Patriots, Blount is projected to head Philadelphia's ground attack, with Smallwood serving as a change-of-pace option and Darren Sproles seeing most of his touches as a receiver out of the backfield.
Blount will earn $50,000 if he reports to training camp weighing 240-245 pounds, ESPN.com's Field Yates reports. Blount is listed at 250 pounds and has enjoyed plenty of success while playing in that range, but the Eagles apparently want him to slim down, perhaps sacrificing a bit of power for additional quickness. He'd still be one of the two or three heaviest tailbacks in the league, and it's unlikely the minor weight loss would significantly change the nature of his game. He had 299 carries and only seven receptions last season for the Patriots, leading the league in rushing attempts inside the 5-yard line and inside the 10-yard line. While unlikely to get that kind of volume this season, Blount figures to enter training camp in a similar role as the Eagles' early-down thumper and regular goal-line/short-yardage back. Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey are two of the smallest running backs in the league, while 2016 fifth-round selection Wendell Smallwood is listed at 5-foot-10, 208 pounds. All three are candidates to cut into Blount's workload, but none is a major threat to the core aspect of his presumed role.
The Eagles hope Blount's presence will help them achieve balance on offense, ESPN.com's Tim McManus reports. The 2016 Eagles had a rookie quarterback from a non-FBS school, an above-average defense and a poor group of pass catchers -- a trio that typically would beg for a run-heavy approach. Of course, the backfield wasn't all that much better than the receiving group, which led to a middle-of-the-pack ranking in pass-play percentage (16th, 59.4). The team's transactions during the free agency period and draft hinted at the possibility of a pass percentage above 60.0 in 2017, but the mid-May addition of Blount on a one-year, $1.25 million contract suggests the Eagles do still aspire toward some degree of balance. While he presumably won't have the opportunity to match last season's 299 carries, Blount projects as the primary early down runner and top goal-line option in what should be an improved offense. Once Ryan Mathews (neck) is released, Blount will be the team's only running back heavier than 210 pounds with any significant NFL experience.
Blount received a free-agent tender from the Patriots on Wednesday, Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald reports. In extending Blount the $1.1 million tender, the Patriots are able to protect the compensatory selection they would receive if he were to sign with another team. If he remains unsigned once training camp begins, Blount will only be able to negotiate with the Patriots.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/17||@Kansas City Chiefs||17||17.59|
|3||09/24||New York Giants||7||14.88|
|4||10/01||@Los Angeles Chargers||27||19.88|
|8||10/29||San Francisco 49ers||33||27.13|
|14||12/10||@Los Angeles Rams||14||16.63|
|15||12/17||@New York Giants||7||14.88|
|3 Year Avg||196||804||10||8||45||0||144|